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Laos forum

Slow boat down the Mekong - HoueiSay to Luang Prabang

Posted by mangie on 15/11/2006 at 02:30

Hi Guys.
HoueiSay to Luang Prabang down the Mekong on a slow boat.
Any ideas of timings?
Border opens at 0800am. Am I better to stay in HoueiSay the night to catch the boat early the next morning?
The plan is to break the journey & stay the night in Pakbeng.
Can I buy a ticket from HoueiSay to Luang Prabang & stop the night?
We aim to do this journey early Feb.07. Do the boats get busy & can you buy tickets in advance?
So many questions--Can somebody help with the answers?

#1 mangie has been a member since 11/11/2006. Posts: 14

Posted by somtam2000 on 15/11/2006 at 05:39 admin

Hi mangie,

Welcome to Travelfish!

The trip takes the best part of two days and everyone overnights at Pakbeng and the ticket takes you to Luang Prabang (though you can get off at Pak Beng and head north if you want). You can catch the boat the day you cross the border or overnight in Huay Xai -- it's an interesting enough little town.

The boats are sometimes full sometimes empty - very variable, though I wouldn't suggest buying the ticket in advance (eg in Chiang Mai) as the price is inflated and you may end up on a substandard boat.

Hope that helps

#2 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 8,001
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Posted by LancasterLad on 15/11/2006 at 14:50

Hi Mangie

We are doing the slow boat in the opposite direction is a few days. We are in LP at the moment and enquired at the Pier booking office about tickets. We must buy separate tickets for the LP to Pak Beng leg and then another ticket ftom Pak Beng to Huay Xai. So I assume it's the same routine travelling south.

I'll be doing a trip report in a few weeks so you might find what I have to say interesting.

#3 LancasterLad has been a member since 13/9/2006. Posts: 62

Posted by hasse_bjork on 15/11/2006 at 21:04

We are also doing the slow boat in the opposite direction and asked 2 booking offices. In one of them we could book a ticket from LP to Huay Xai and the other one only to Pak Beng (105 000 kip).

#4 hasse_bjork has been a member since 12/11/2006. Posts: 1

Posted by LancasterLad on 19/11/2006 at 14:48

I've done a trawl of a few travel agents the last few days. The only way to book a direct ticket to Huay Xai is by speedboat, which is potentially suicidal.

The cheapest way to book a ticket to Pak Beng is from the office at the jetty. It's 95,000 kip. When I was down there yesterday I was told that there was a boat leaving this morning to Pak Beng with soft airline type seats, and that the same boat would be travelling onward from Pak Beng to Huay Xai tomorrow morning at the same price. So I went down to the jetty this morning to check it out, and it was true. I then enquired how often the comfortable slow boat runs. As and when was the answer I got, so you have to keep checking at the jetty every day.

#5 LancasterLad has been a member since 13/9/2006. Posts: 62

Posted by rayc101 on 19/11/2006 at 18:06

Hi Mangie

Just finished this trip (Hui Xay - PakBeng - LuangPrabang) a few days ago.
The slow boats are OK, but with uncomfortable and cramped seating for a long journey. However, for 95,000 Kp who's complaining. They are a great way to meet like-minded travellers.
Preferably bring you own food. Drinks are readily available, if a little pricey.
Pakben is a stopover town that does its best to re-write the currency-conversion guidelines, and rounding rules (also applies for Luang Prabang, which is also full of poor quality Chinese artifacts and clothing being passed off as Laotian). Keep a close eye on your change. All places in Pakben use generators to supply electricity, and some close off at 22:00ish. Thai Baht is the preferred currency because the Kip is virtually worthless, but you may be disappointed with the conversion rate. If you pay in Thai Bt, ask for you change in same. The current street rate is 260-265 Kp per TBt.
You may also get asked if you want to smoke weed (or worse) virtually as soon as you set foot on dry land. Room rates range from 100 - 400 TBt for the night. For 100 TBt you get a bed with shared facilities and the mosquitoes are provided free. Definitely take a padlock, and choose a room which you can lock from the outside. One travelling associate had his money stolen from his locked room whist eating out in Pakben.
The boats at this time of the year are often crowded with tourists, so don't expect some sort of idyllic African Queen adventure.

#6 rayc101 has been a member since 19/2/2006. Posts: 51
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Posted by chewbaca on 27/11/2006 at 22:14

I am interested in doing the reverse trip.

slow boat - 2 days
speed boat - 6 hours

Are these the only options? According to the Laos Airlines website the flight no longer exists.

#7 chewbaca has been a member since 12/11/2006. Posts: 9

Posted by LancasterLad on 28/11/2006 at 11:30

Hi Chewbaca

LP to Huay Xai is up-river. Go down to the boat pier (not a pier!) and check when the next slowboat with soft seats is leaving. It costs 95,000 kips to Pak Beng and ditto from Pak Beng to Huay Xai.

The speedboats set off a mile or two up-river from LP. If you take the fast boat you are taking a serious risk of getting badly injured or worse. If you have time take a slow boat rip to Pak Ou caves and you'll see the speedboats in action, and also see that navigating parts of The Mekong are tricky. It only takes a moment or two of madness fron a speedboat driver and you're in big trouble mate.

Lao Airlines fly daily from LP to Chiang Mai. You'll probably have to book a few days in advance and the cost is about US$87. The flight takes an hour, and a limo into town is 120 bahts.

#8 LancasterLad has been a member since 13/9/2006. Posts: 62

Posted by chewbaca on 1/12/2006 at 12:50

Thanks LL!

#9 chewbaca has been a member since 12/11/2006. Posts: 9

Posted by Thai_Tripper on 1/12/2006 at 17:44

I am also interested in doing this trip. So thanks for the info on soft seats.
Present plan is to go north due to -
My understanding is that VISA on entry at Huay Xai is no longer available and you have to apply in advance at BKK . Can anybody shed some light ?

#10 Thai_Tripper has been a member since 9/4/2005. Posts: 2
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Posted by RonAPlymouth on 6/2/2014 at 00:15

I have just arrived in Luang Prabang after a very bad experience on the slow boat from Huay Xai, we expected the cramped conditions but we did not expect the very unpleasant people. The night at Pekbeng hassle by the locals to extract as much cash from you before you left in the morning and a complete lack of information from the boat company made this worse.
The boats themselves are getting very old and thus less safe and liable to breakdowns etc. and the river is still the very dangerous place it always has been with rapids, rip tides and lumps of rock above and below the water. The seats on these boats are packed in and not secured to the deck. These boats have no life saving gear onboard, jackets, rafts anything that would float in an accident that will happen soon and many people will probably drown, even being a strong swimmer will not keep you safe.
We were not taken to Luang Prabang instead dropped many kilometers before in the middle of nowhere where we were greeted by some very agressive men telling us to pay for our own way into town. At first the nearly 100 people onboard refused to get off and asked to be taken to Luang Prabang, the men got nastier and as a result people feeling intimadaited started to leave. Over 15 people remained onboard asking to be taken and were left there being jerred at by other boat owners and locals, very unplesant people, eventually and reluctantly we all left half of us had to pay the blackmail as we could not walk that far. Some of the younger people had to walk because they could not afford it, down a dangerous unlit road.
Some local were onboard and did not attempt to leave the boat at this landing as they knew that it would go onto LP when we got off.
The landing site used is not suitable very very steep and dangerous to climb, especially with heavy bags.
My advice is give the slowboat a miss now it has become dangerous in many ways, the new freedom bridge is now open, if I could do it again I would take a Thai bus all the way to LP.
The tuc tuc who took us into LP dropped us far away from where we had asked to go, the nationalities involved in defending travellers where Russian, French, Dutch, Australian and Brits.

#11 RonAPlymouth has been a member since 5/2/2014. Posts: 1

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